Mercy Health Sparta Health Center Receives Award from Migrant Legal Aid

 Mercy Health Sparta Health Center team members (L-R) Delvis Alcantara, Miriam Esquivel, Nyssa Johnson, Teresa Hendricks – executive director of Migrant Legal Aid, Cynthia Jaimes, and Juliana Lopez

The Mercy Health Sparta Health Center team has earned the Migrant Legal Aid “Extraordinary Service in Extraordinary Times” Award for their work during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in administering vaccines to the migrant population in West Michigan.

Mercy Health estimates approximately 800 migrant community members in northern Kent County were vaccinated by its staff from March – July. According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, 5,400 migrant workers in Michigan have been vaccinated, meaning about 15-percent of those vaccinated in the state were done at the Sparta clinic’s vaccination events.

In March, when vaccine initiatives were starting to ramp up and Mercy Health Physician Partners/Mercy Health Saint Mary’s hospital were looking at ways to reach vulnerable populations, they were approached by Migrant Legal Aid to collaborate and assist these groups.

“For us, it was an easy decision to partner with Migrant Legal Aid to provide vaccines. Any opportunity to reach our migrant population is something we love to do,” said Nyssa Johnson practice leader at Mercy Health Sparta Health Center. “We guaranteed that anyone who was looking to receive the vaccine – had the opportunity and in a capacity that was comfortable for them to do so. Our teams quickly started reaching out to the local growers, nurseries, and contractors to make them aware that we were here to help. Almost instantly we had a group that was looking to get as many of their workers vaccinated as quickly as possible. We jumped at the chance to help.”

The Mercy Health team included on-site staff, community health workers, Migrant Legal Aid, and the Mercy Health Infection Prevention department who planned how to safely serve a large group of people at an off-site location.

“The leadership and providers worked with us to dispel the myth versus the truths regarding the vaccines, with materials that we published in English and Spanish, and work educational videos,” said Teresa Hendricks, executive director of Migrant Legal Aide. “I have no doubt the Mercy Health Sparta Health Center team protected hundreds of families from COVID-19 illness and death.”

Mercy Health nurses administered vaccines to 100 workers in their first event.

“The day was beautiful and powerfully uplifting. We saw the relief in many people’s eyes at feeling they had the protection needed to work in an environment that may not always be the safest,” said Johnson. “The team came together to create a safe, quick and efficient flow that included Migrant Legal Aid and community health workers running the registration booths and interpreting as needed, nurses and medical assistants administering the vaccines, and support staff members helping to clean and run for any necessary supplies or equipment.

“I couldn’t believe that our small office had such a large and positive impact on the migrant community.”

– Nyssa Johnson, practice leader at Mercy Health Sparta Health Center

The Mercy Health Sparta Health Center was selected for the award based on a partnership with Migrant Legal Aid during their vaccination events. Migrant Legal Aid felt the work the Sparta team did, the quality of care, the overall passion of the group and the mission they were trying to serve made the Mercy Health team deserving of the award.

“Migrant Legal Aid has served the migrant population for 48 years. We have always known that Mercy Health Sparta Health Center provides passionate quality health care because the medical and cultural competency of their providers is unsurpassed,” said Hendricks. “When the pandemic hit, we saw their urgent commitment to protecting migrant farmworkers from COVID-19. Through that, we were included in their process of logistical planning for remote pop-up clinics, where we realized that we were witnessing something special: extraordinary service in extraordinary times.”

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